What is meant by cultural diversity and how does it apply to nursing? Cultural diversity refers to the differences between people rooted in a shared belief and value system based on norms, customs, and way of life. Knowledge of cultural diversity is important in all levels of nursing, whether nurses are practicing in a clinical setting, education, research, or administration. This knowledge comes through communication and education between our clients, colleagues, and healthcare facilities. (Nursing World, 2000)
The first step in overcoming cultural diversity is the awareness of stereotypes and prejudice’s. The second step is learning how other people communicate.
What one person may consider as sexist, racist, or homophobic, may actually be based on misunderstandings of the culture. It’s important to learn about the background of a particular culture to see what might be cause for misconception. (Raths, 1999) In today’s society, nurses will come in contact with many cultural differences, but knowing something about a culture will be an advantage for the nurse when faced with treating a patient with a background in that culture. Not being able to communicate could severely hinder the treatment needed to save a life. We have learned to use sign language or a translator to get around a language barrier but it’s difficult to con your way around ethnic traditions, customs, and taboos. For example: Some Vietnamese consider the head to be sacred and that it houses the soul, and by touching the head you could allow the soul to escape.
Some Chinese believe that blood is the source of life and that taking any of it could lead to their death. Some Hispanics believe that if someone looks at a child for any length of time without touching the child, that that person has cast an evil spell on that child. These examples may sound superstitious in our society but are very real in the cultures that believe in them, which would make treating these cultures a sensitive area. (USA TODAY, 1999)
Nurses must consistently acknowledge the important role of colleagues in providing culturally sensitive care. When healthcare professionals work together, they are able to use each other as a resource to explain cultural practices and to discuss culturally difficult cases. If the colleagues do not work together, it could actually block the efforts of other’s in providing culturally sensitive nursing care.
Having a culturally diverse staff positively contributes to the caring for culturally diverse clients. Besides creating resources for translation and interpretation of cultural practices, a culturally diverse group of colleagues encourage openness and flexibility in other nurses. (Reimer, 1998)
In the United States, immigrants are quickly becoming the largest shares of the minority population. (Heuberger, Gerber, 1999) Working with a multicultural team can be challenging for managers. Training and education are just a few ways to address these challenges. Some employers are afraid of offending someone so they don’t even bother to bring diversity training into their facility, and a high percentage don’t follow up once they have.
They are under the misconception that the training is the result in itself. (Rath, 1999) Facilities need to train their employees not to judge others by their ethnic backgrounds, color or accents, all of which have nothing to do with their intelligence or education. (Heuberger, Gerber 1999) Institutions should be committed to establishing policies and providing resources that would promote education for culturally sensitive care. You can insist on changed behaviors, even though you cannot change beliefs. (Kirkman, 1999)
It is significant for a nurse to understand that the nurse-patient relationship includes the interaction of these cultural systems: the culture of the nurse, the culture of the client, and the culture of the setting. Recognizing cultural diversity, integrating cultural knowledge, and acting in a culturally appropriate manner enables nurses to become more effective in doing nursing assessments and serving as client advocates.
(Nursing World, 2000) Nurses, who are truly educated, understand there is no single perspective, interpretation, standpoint, or reality. They realize that there are many forms of knowledge and different ways of knowing. (Heuberger, Gerber, 1999)
Heuberger, Barbara; Gerber, Diane (summer 99). Strength through Cultural Diversity. College Teaching, Vol. 47 Issue 3, p107, 7p.
Kirkman, Sheryl Reimer (May 98). Nursing Description .